With the relaxing days of summer drawing to a close, most of us probably find our lives busier than ever. Back to school. Back to work. Back to our everyday routines.
It can be easy to get caught up in the stress and busyness of life and forget about looking after our own health. However, in the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the Emperor’s court doctor gave some simple and practical advice in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:
“In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of Yin and Yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided over stressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.”
Healthy habits for the body, regulating the emotions for the mind, nourishing the spirit – it was good advice back in ancient times and it’s probably needed now more than ever.
In Traditional Oriental Medicine, all of the practitioner’s senses are used during diagnosis in order to help determine patterns of imbalance which may be causing sickness and symptoms in a person’s health.
As previously seen in Part 1, visual diagnosis was the first of four diagnostic examination methods described in the earliest textbooks of acupuncture written 2,000 years ago.
The second method is that of listening diagnosis. Although it is probably the least commonly used of the four main methods, it can still provide valuable information especially in helping to determine a person’s constitution body type.
For example, one aspect of listening diagnosis is observing the predominant characteristics of someone’s normal speaking voice. According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain vocal tones or types of speech correspond to particular organ systems:
Liver – brusque, commanding
Heart – muttering
Spleen-Pancreas – variable pitch, sing-song
Lung – whiny, entreating
Kidney – raspy, groaning
Most people have a mixture of all of these vocal qualities, but usually one or two tend to dominate their normal speech patterns and can provide insight into which organ systems might have a predisposition toward becoming imbalanced.
In addition, the way a person enunciates certain vowel or consonant sounds while speaking can also provide meaningful information about their natural body type.
Although never solely relied upon, listening diagnosis, when combined with the other diagnostic tools of Traditional Oriental Medicine, can be useful for determining patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body which can then be strengthened and regulated through acupuncture and other treatment methods to help improve their health.
It’s not a secret that many of the herbs used in Traditional Oriental Medicine are valued more for their medicinal properties than for their taste.
However, there are exceptions and fresh ginger root, or Sheng Jiang as it’s known in Chinese, is one of the most commonly used herbs in both TCM as well as the kitchen.
Fresh ginger is a key ingredient in many of the traditional formulas used for boosting the immune system and treating colds and flu, especially at the early stages with symptoms such as chills and body aches, nasal congestion, and coughing with mucous and phlegm.
Ginger is also beneficial for the digestive system and can be helpful for symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, whether it be from motion sickness when travelling or morning sickness during pregnancy. Because of its antibacterial action in the gastrointestinal tract, ginger can also soothe mild cases of food poisoning or other similar digestive upsets.
A simple tea can be made by grating 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger root and gently simmering in 1 cup of hot water for no longer than about 5 minutes, otherwise the medicinal volatile oils may evaporate and reduce the overall efficacy. Several cups of the tea may be sipped throughout the day as needed.
A note of caution: because ginger root can stimulate blood circulation, it should be used with caution during pregnancy or in people who have a higher risk of bleeding such as those using blood thinner medication. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.
Traditional Oriental Medicine is unique in that it is not just disease or sickness which is looked at during diagnosis, but also the underlying imbalances within a person’s body which may have contributed to the symptoms in the first place.
Looking, or visual diagnosis, is the first of four main diagnostic methods described in the earliest textbooks. For example, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), written over 2,000 years ago, mentions about observing both the patient’s colour as well as their Shin, or spirit.
This first aspect of visual diagnosis, that of looking at the colour of the patient, is a reference to observing various parts of the body but especially the face – in particular the area around the eyes, forehead, nose, and mouth.
According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain colours correspond to particular organ systems:
Liver – blue/green
Heart – red
Spleen-Pancreas – yellow
Lung – white
Kidney – black
A predominance of one or more colours, often subtle to the untrained eye, can frequently be associated with a person’s constitutional tendency toward an imbalance in that corresponding organ or acupuncture meridian system. However, it can also be an indication of a more acute or advanced state of disease, for example in extreme cases the yellowish colour of jaundice or the dark, ashen complexion of a late-stage cancer patient.
In children, these underlying colours of skin tone are often more easily noted than in adults and in fact is one of the main diagnostic methods used in a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture known as Shonishin, especially when treating infants and younger children who might otherwise be unable to communicate their symptoms.
A second aspect of visual diagnosis is that of observing the patient’s Shin (sometimes translated as spirit, heart, or mind). This is most commonly done by paying attention to the person’s eyes and face – a certain amount of vitality, aliveness, sparkle, brightness, and strength of life force can be seen in a healthy person.
As a part of visual diagnosis, making note of the general physique, skeletal structure, muscle tone, and skin luster can also provide important information about a person’s overall vitality and health.
All of these visual observations are used, along with the other diagnostic methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine, to help determine patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body.
Treatment, whether it is through acupuncture and moxibustion, shiatsu massage, herbal medicine, or other techniques, is then aimed to strengthen and regulate the various organ systems, to correct underlying imbalances, and to help enhance the body’s own healing abilities.
Burdock – although sometimes regarded as a nuisance weed (the spiked burrs on the seeds can get trapped onto clothing or pet’s fur if walking through a patch of burdock plants and were the original inspiration for the invention of Velcro), it’s a valuable herb in both Western and Eastern herbal medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, burdock seed is known as Niu Bang Zi and is often used in the treatment of Lung system disorders, ranging from skin problems such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis to other inflammatory conditions such as tonsillitis and sore throat.
However, in Japan it is the root of the plant, known as Gobo, which is commonly used. Resembling an over-sized carrot and valued for its gentle cleansing detox properties, including helping to purify the blood and lymphatic system, gobo is used not only as medicine but is also eaten as a common everyday food.
Although a tea can be made from the dried root, usually the fresh format of burdock is preferred and can be found in many Asian or other well-stocked vegetable markets. Thinly sliced or grated, fresh burdock root makes a delicious and healthy addition to vegetable stir-fry or soup recipes.
A note of caution: because burdock can act as a mild uterine stimulant, it should not be used during pregnancy. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.
The following is a guest blog article by Shirley Garrett and Dr. Owen Garrett, Reg’d Psychologist, of Leaps & Bounds Fitness
For many of us, making a resolution is an annual rite of passage that marks our entry into the New Year with a fresh start and a clear point of departure from the past – for a few days and weeks, there is hope that this is the year our resolutions will produce a lasting change.
Alas, for about 80% of us, whatever changes we’ve embarked upon will start to fade and be absorbed back into the old routines within weeks of the New Year. Getting started is not the hardest part to making a change – it is staying the course.
Here’s one thing to think about that may help you stay the course with achieving your resolutions: it starts with considering what’s in your head and your heart. What is meant here is that it’s important to identify and construct the motivation for your change in terms of Rationality and Logic (i.e. your head) and equally, in terms of Emotion and Desire (i.e. your heart). For lasting change, you must have both.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, your logical and rational mind might tell you that losing weight is good because it will reduce your risk of developing Type II Diabetes as well as reduce the risk of having a heart attack. Those are great reasons and there’s plenty of medical research to demonstrate that loss of weight will reduce these health risks. However, if information was all that was needed for lasting behaviour change, we would all be on the road to immortality by considering how much health information we’re exposed to!
In other words, the rational mind is great for alerting us to what we should do, but information itself doesn’t give us the “oomph” to make the change and stick with it. For that, we need to challenge ourselves on a more emotional level. We need to give ourselves time to carefully answer questions like:
How would my life be different if I lost weight?
Would I have more energy? Sleep better?
If I lost weight, would I feel better? How meaningful would that be to me?
Would I feel better about myself? Have more confidence and a better self-image?
Important tip: It’s far more powerful to write down your answers to these questions rather than to just think about them.
The neuroscience of behaviour change tells us that while knowledge and intellect can point us in the right direction, it’s our emotional attachment to the change that provides the drive and energy necessary to maintain that change.
The bottom line is that we need to involve both our head and heart in order to make the commitment to change that remains durable in the face of the inevitable bumps in the road that would otherwise derail even the best of our intentions.
Happy New Year!
For more information about creating lasting change and achieving your health and fitness goals, you can contact Shirley and Owen Garrett at Leaps & Bounds Fitness
The healing art of KoKoDo Shiatsu, like other methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine such as acupuncture and moxibustion, seeks to regulate and correct imbalances within the body, helping to restore a person to a healthier state of balance.
On the other hand, using the theory of Yin-Yang mutual opposites, its related martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu actually creates more imbalance in a person and is a practical self-defence art aimed at neutralizing and subduing a violent attacker in a humane and non-injuring manner.
However, many of these martial art concepts can also be applied to everyday life and with continued practice help a person to become healthier.
Balance – one of the most fundamental concepts in KoKoDo JuJutsu is that of kuzushi,or creating off-balance in an attacker. More specifically, the skeletal structure of the aggressor is compromised, primarily by affecting the vertical alignment of their head, spine, pelvis, and feet. By creating these subtle shifts in balance, the attacker loses their power and can then be easily thrown with minimal effort.
Many common activities such as desk work and computer use tends to create bad posture in our body structure – we slouch in our chairs or have poor alignment as we strain to look at our computer screens, creating tension and imbalance in our necks, backs, and hips.
By paying more attention to our own body alignment throughout the day and making appropriate adjustments to our work environments, we can maintain better posture which helps to lessen the strain on our bodies and allows us to function more efficiently.
Tension – KoKoDo JuJutsu makes use of atemi-waza, or the touching, manipulation, and striking of various acupuncture meridians and points, in many of its techniques. The main purpose is to create tension, fear, and pain in the attacker’s body and mind which then facilitates locking, controlling, and subduing them.
As anyone who has experienced Shiatsu massage knows, areas of tension in the body can be quite painful and sensitive to the touch when being worked on. Learning how to relax these tight areas, whether by shiatsu, yoga, stretching, or other similar methods, can be useful for relieving tension and pain as well as allowing for more circulation of blood and energy to help promote the body’s own healing abilities.
Breath – students of KoKoDo JuJutsu spend half of their time taking ukemi,or receiving techniques, getting tossed around the mats with painful wristlocks and throws. In order to practise and receive these techniques safely, students learn how to relax when getting thrown and part of this training is knowing how to breathe properly in order to absorb the pain and force without being injured.
Most people tend to unconsciously hold their breath and create tension in their abdomen and ribcage when concentrating on a work task at hand or when under stress.
Learning how to pay attention to our breathing patterns throughout the day and becoming more conscious of proper deep abdominal breathing helps to relax the body, calm the mind, and allows us to be better able to deal with stress whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional.
Nowadays, even with the widespread use of perfume, deodorant, toothpaste, and other hygiene products which can mask the body’s natural odours, observing scents can still provide useful information for diagnosis and acupuncture treatment.
It is interesting to note then that modern medical science is attempting to also make use of smells in diagnosing disease. For example, there is new research into odour-based early detection of ovarian cancer using high-tech sensors to capture the signature “smells” of certain cancer-related cells taken from blood samples of patients. It is hoped that someday these types of screenings might provide earlier warning and detection than is possible with current conventional testing.
Perhaps on closer examination and study, many of the time-tested concepts of Traditional Oriental Medicine aren’t so strange after all.
Cinnamon – it’s one of the most familiar spices in our kitchens, especially this time of year as the weather turns colder. It is also one of the most commonly used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The outer bark of cinnamon is called Rou Gui in Chinese and is the form most people are familiar with. In TCM, the inner part of the branches is also used and is known as Gui Zhi.
Although there are some clinical differences in the usage between the two forms of cinnamon, they are both used primarily for their warming effect on the body.
For example, it is one of the main ingredients of a cold and flu herbal formula commonly prescribed when the person is experiencing chills and body aches.
Cinnamon can be used to warm up the digestive system for symptoms such as pain, cramps, and coldness of the abdomen and is also an important herb when the Kidney system is weak, with symptoms including lumbar weakness and lower back pain, fatigue, and coldness of the body and extremities.
A typical dosage of cinnamon would be 1 – 2 grams. Adding a pinch to your food or beverages is a great way to warm up the body, especially after being outside exposed to cold and windy weather.
A note of caution: because cinnamon stimulates the blood circulation, it should be used with caution during pregnancy or in people who have a high risk of bleeding such as those using blood thinner medication. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.
As summer draws to a close and September begins, it’s a busy time as the children head back to their regular school schedules and our work life returns to normal too.
For kids, this can often be an exciting time as new school teachers and classrooms are introduced, old friends are seen again, and regular routines and activities are re-established. However, for some it can also be a time of worry and anxiety in trying to cope with all of these new stressors.
For example, the 2,000 year old Chinese medical textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine) describes how “over-worrying about many things or obsessing about one thing” can lead to an imbalance in the digestive system (known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the Spleen-Pancreas system)
A specialized form of pediatric acupuncture, known as Shonishin, can be very useful for helping to treat both anxiety and digestive problems in children. The focus is to strengthen and improve the child’s overall health and vitality, especially when their body type tends towards having a constitutional weakness in the digestive system. Parents can often be shown how to do some simple treatments at home and sometimes dietary recommendations might also be suggested to help out as well.
As the Spleen-Pancreas digestion system is brought back into a healthier state of balance, children usually show an improvement in symptoms such as better appetite and fewer stomachaches as well as report feeling calmer and less anxious – which sounds like a much more enjoyable way to face another new school year.
As was previously seen in Part 1, Eastern medicine has long observed that our emotional states can have a significant impact on our health.
However, which comes first? Is it an imbalance in the body that produces negative emotions, or is it the emotions having an effect on the body?
Traditional Oriental Medicine doesn’t draw artificial boundaries between the body, mind, and spirit, but instead sees a close connection between them. Specific emotional states correspond to particular physical organs in the body; an imbalance in one area can affect all other aspects of our health and often cannot be described in a simple cause-and-effect manner.
For example, the Liver system, which in Eastern medicine regulates the blood and energy circulation throughout the body, is linked to anger, frustration, irritability, and other similar feelings.
In certain situations such as the mood swings and irritability often associated with PMS, the physiological changes occurring within the body are disrupting the Liver system and its ability to properly regulate the emotions.
For other situations, emotional stressors appear to be a primary cause or trigger for the physical symptoms as is frequently seen in gastrointestinal disorders including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and colitis.
Diagnosis and treatment can vary depending on each individual case. For example, some patients have a more nervous temperament with a tendency towards over-thinking, worry, and anxiety, which according to Eastern medicine often indicates a weakness in the Spleen-Pancreas system that needs to be strengthened and supported.
For other people, stress, frustration, unresolved anger, or other similar emotions are the more dominant ones and can exert a negative influence on the digestive system according to the Restraining Cycle of the Five Phases and so it’s the Liver system that needs to be calmed and more properly regulated.
These types of emotional imbalances are also commonly seen when dealing with children’s health issues with a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture known as Shonishin. For example, there are some cases of infant colic that don’t receive much noticeable improvement with the typical dietary recommendations usually indicated, but the symptoms are resolved when the emotional components are addressed using appropriate treatment.
In yet other complicated cases such as anxiety and depression, Eastern medicine recognizes both a physical and a mental component to the conditions, with imbalances in the body affecting the emotions and the out-of-balance emotions likewise having a direct effect on the body, sometimes leading to a mutually-reinforcing downward spiral.
Because of Traditional Oriental Medicine’s wholistic approach to health, treatment modalities including acupuncture and moxibustion can be an integral part of therapy due to their balancing and regulating influence on the entire person, not just on the physical body.
The following is a guest blog article by Ferdinand Milan CFP, CGA, FMA, FCSI, Certified Financial Planner
In British Columbia, our BC provincial Medical Service Plan (MSP) provides a great foundation for healthcare coverage, but we generally underestimate the high cost of health and dental expenses.
If you own your own business (incorporated or sole proprietor) there are 3 ways to pay your healthcare expenses.
The first way is through traditional extended health insurance plans. You and/or your employer pay a monthly premium which covers a defined list of medical and dental expenses for you and your family. The coverage is limited, and you probably will pay for items like braces for the children, eyeglasses, or acupuncture treatments. If you claim far less than the premiums you pay, it’s your loss and the plan is designed in favour of the insurance company.
The second and simplest way is to pay with cash, but it is also an expensive way to pay for your health expenses. It will actually cost you up to 77.6% more than you think! You need to earn the money and pay tax on it before you pay the bill and the highest marginal tax rate in this province is 43.7%. To pay $1,000 in medical or dental expenses, you will need to earn up to $1,776. Ouch!
An excellent third way is the use of a Private Health Services Plan (PHSP).
In 1988, CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) stated that if your medical and dental benefits are administered through an independent administrator, they can be 100% tax deductible to your company without being a taxable benefit to you or employees of the company.
How does it work you say?
1. You pay your health or dental expenses directly.
2. Your company sends the PHSP provider a claim form with the receipts and a cheque to cover the expenses plus an administrative fee (usually around 10%).
3. The PHSP provider provides you with a tax-free reimbursement of the expense.
4. The company gets a tax-deductible receipt for the full expense and the administrative fee.
What’s covered? Any product, procedure or service you may receive from a health care professional who is authorized to practice in the province and certified to the practitioners’ governing body. The list of covered expenses is extensive (including acupuncture) and you only pay for what you use.
The downside. . . catastrophic medical events are not covered in a PHSP. You need to make sure that you have “stop-loss” insurance that covers long-term disability, critical illness, and out of province medical expenses.
A PHSP is worth looking into if you’re self-employed. They require a bit of planning and you should consult with a financial advisor experienced in setting these up.
As part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), a recent study found a significant increase in asthma and allergy symptoms among children who ate fast food meals several times per week.
Although a link between respiratory problems and food may be surprising to some, this is a relationship that has already been recognized in Eastern Medicine for thousands of years.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the digestive system (which relates to the Earth phase) helps to support the functioning of the respiratory system (Metal phase), as previously seen in the Generating Cycle of the Five Phase theory.
This is especially true when the respiratory symptoms involve excess production of phlegm and mucous, such as wheezing and rattling of the lungs in the case of asthma, or a stuffy or runny nose associated with rhinitis.
In TCM, excess mucous is regarded as a by-product of the digestive system, so asthma and allergy treatment often focuses on strengthening the Lung and Spleen-Pancreas systems.
In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine can also make recommendations to assist a person in reducing their intake of phlegm and mucous-producing foods. Some of the most common trigger foods to avoid include:
highly refined or processed foods
greasy or fried foods
cold-temperature products, including ice-cold beverages or frozen drinks
As we enter into the spring season, often a time of increased asthma, allergies, and other related issues, paying some extra attention to our diet can be an important step in helping our respiratory system stay healthy.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Most of us begin the New Year with best of intentions for our health – just ask anyone who works at a fitness gym and they will probably tell you that January is one of their busiest months as people attempt to follow their New Year’s resolutions and get into shape. Unfortunately, after a month or two the gym usually clears out and it’s back to just the regulars training again.
It can be difficult to set goals or resolutions and see them through to completion. However, the Eastern approach to things can be useful in helping us along the way.
For instance, it is insightful to note that many of the names for traditional Japanese arts end with the suffix “do”, e.g. Bu-do (martial arts), Cha-do (tea ceremony), or Sho-do (calligraphy).
Japanese Kanji for "Do" - Pathway
This word “Do” (Dao in Chinese) represents a pathway or journey and typifies the attitude and approach taken when training in these arts – rather than just learning simple acts of self-defense, making tea, or beautiful writing, these practices are a lifelong journey of development and refinement for the practitioner.
Some of these ideas can be useful when applied to our own journey towards improving our health.
The small steps are important – although drastic action or big changes are sometimes needed along our journey, most of the time it’s usually just about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all of the small seemingly insignificant choices and actions that we make day-to-day that add up over the years. Starting with small but consistent actions can create lasting changes for improving our health.
Progress is not steady – when training in traditional arts, as in life, sometimes it feels like we’re making good progress and reaching our goals, other times it can seem like we’ve reached a plateau or even going downhill. This is to be expected, since life is about constant change, but if we keep moving forward one small step at a time, progress is being made whether it feels like it or not.
The journey is for life – in contrast to some sports where full intensity is always applied, leading to frequent injuries, long recovery times, and decreased performance with ageing, training in traditional martial arts such as KoKoDo JuJutsu is conducted at a certain intensity level so that practice can be done every day for life, injuries are minimized, and practitioners can keep training and improving well into their senior years. In a similar manner, positive changes, no matter how small, should be a lifelong daily discipline. For example, crash or fad diets usually don’t work in the long run, since diets by their very nature tend to be temporary. However, by committing to simple lifestyle changes such as more whole foods and minimizing processed foods, better and long lasting results can often be obtained.
As we continue our journey along the pathway to good health, wishing you the best as we step into the New Year!
“Like the calm still surface water that reflects the moon and a flying bird, true living calmness is the condition of our mind that reflects all things clearly.”
Tohei Koichi – Ki Sayings
A frequently heard comment from people coming in for acupuncture and shiatsu treatment is that they struggle with “over-thinking”, finding it difficult to quiet the mind as a thousand thoughts constantly race through their head.
This problem seems to be common for most people in our modern society and not just in cases such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia.
How does one quiet the mind? In traditional martial arts training is a concept known as mushin. Literally translated as “no mind” or “empty mind”, mushin is sometimes compared to the calm surface of a lake which provides a clear reflection of its surroundings.
For example, in the martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu, powerful yet effortless technique is developed in part by the cultivation of mushin – learning how to abandon one’s physical and mental tension and stress while at the same time being able to relax and properly focus the mind and body.
Learning how to calm our minds takes a lifetime of practice. However, some useful daily habits to help people begin to develop a mental state of calmness include:
Be in the moment – regular physical exercise can be helpful in calming the mind. Whether it’s participating in a fitness class, going for a bicycle ride, or just walking in the neighbourhood park, physical activity can be a simple way of engaging in the present moment and helping a person leave the day’s worries and thoughts behind them.
Quiet time – turning off the tv, radio, cellphone, and countless other distractions and spending time just sitting and doing nothing alone in silence, even just 10 minutes, can be a good start. It may be difficult when first beginning, but with continued practice becomes more comfortable as we are able to remain in a state of relaxed silence for longer periods of time and with less distraction.
Breathe – in Eastern thought, there is no separation between the mind and body – stress and tension in one can affect the other. Many people tend to subconsciously hold their breath when under stress. By becoming self-aware of this and relearning how to relax and breathe, both the body and mind are able to become more calm.
“So what caused the health problem?” This is a common question asked by patients in my acupuncture clinic.
For Western minds, we’re used to explaining and understanding things in a direct linear cause-and-effect manner. However, Eastern medicine has observed that natural phenomena in the real world, including our own health, is not always simple or black and white; many factors can contribute and interact with each other to create imbalance and disease pathology in our lives.
Because of this, Traditional Chinese Medicine groups the etiology, or causes of disease, into several main categories.
1) Internal causes – Eastern medicine recognizes that emotions, especially when they are prolonged, have a significant impact on our health, with each emotional state corresponding to a particular internal organ:
It is interesting to note that even Western medicine is discovering and acknowledging the role of emotions on our health through certain modern fields of medical research such as psychoneuroimmunology.
2) External causes – Traditional Chinese Medicine also recognizes that our environment, including changes in temperature, air pressure, and humidity (classically described as Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Dryness), can have an impact on our health.
For example, many people who live here in the cold and damp temperate rain forest climate of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada notice that their rheumatic joint pain improves when they travel down south to a warm and dry climate and returns when they come back home. For others, a fluctuation of symptoms that they experience may also be related to certain times of the year or changes in the seasons.
3) Other causes – the third and final category is wide ranging and includes many other factors such as:
All of these causes can create specific patterns of signs and symptoms in a person’s health. By recognizing and addressing the causes and patterns of imbalance, the healing ability of the body can be nurtured to help regain a healthier state of balance.
As mentioned in previous articles, one of the most important theories in Traditional Japanese acupuncture and shiatsu massage is that of the “Five Phases of Transformation”. Part 1 described how these five phases known as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water are used to categorize a wide variety of natural phenomena. Part 2 explained the Generating Cycle, the first of several relationships which describe how the various phases inter-relate to each other in Nature.
The second of these inter-relationships is called the Restraining Cycle (sometimes also referred to as the Control Cycle). In a healthy system, the Restraining Cycle helps to maintain order and balance
By observing Nature
Wood restrains Earth by providing a healthy covering of plant life to prevent soil erosion
Earth restrains Water by forming embankments to keep the rivers and irrigation ditches from overflowing and flooding
Water restrains Fire by preventing overheating
Fire restrains Metal by purifying and refining during metalworking
Metal restrains Wood by using farming implements and other tools to keep overgrowth in proper check, and the entire cycle repeats
However, when one phase begins to dominate, the system can become unhealthy and out of balance and the Restraining Cycle gives way to Destruction
Wood destroys Earth by degrading the soil with over-intensive farming and not letting the land properly fallow with rotating crops
Earth destroys Water by blocking and damming up the waterways
Water destroys Fire by completely extinguishing the flames
Fire destroys Metal by over-tempering during metalworking
Metal destroys Wood by using farming implements and other tools to clearcut the forests and overwork the farmland, and the entire cycle repeats
The inter-relationships in Nature that are metaphorically described by the Restraining Cycle have clinical value when applied to the human body, much like the similar Western scientific idea of a feedback inhibition loop, often referred to as homeostasis in biological terminology.
An example of this would be seen when dealing with digestive health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, various stressors, including unresolved anger and other emotional issues, can cause the Liver system to become overactive and domineering. This then has an unbalancing and destructive effect on the digestive system (known as the Spleen-Pancreas system in TCM), explained by the Restraining Cycle as Wood overacting on Earth.
In this case, treatment would be focused on regulating and calming down the Liver system to reduce its negative controlling effect on the Spleen-Pancreas system, and the digestion is then better able to strengthen and recover.
Love it or hate it, Daylight Savings Time (DST) is here upon us. However, as critics point out, there seems to be some evidence that this sudden change in time can create various health problems associated with a disruption and stress to our natural circadian rhythm, including fatigue, sleeping difficulties, mood changes, and even an increase in traffic accidents.
Long before the western scientific discovery of circadian rhythm, did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine also described a 24-hour cycle in the human body?
The following table lists the windows of time in which the various organs and their corresponding meridian pathways are the most active according to time acupuncture theory:
3 am – 5 am Lung
5 am – 7 am Large Intestine
7 am – 9 am Stomach
9 am – 11 am Spleen-Pancreas
11 am – 1 pm Heart
1 pm – 3 pm Small Intestine
3 pm – 5 pm Bladder
5 pm – 7 pm Kidney
7 pm – 9 pm Pericardium
9 pm – 11 pm Triple Burner
11 pm – 1 am Gallbladder
1 am – 3 am Liver
This information can be clinically valuable. For example, if someone is suffering from insomnia and tends to wake up at 3am every morning, often acupuncture points related to the Lung and Liver meridians can be useful for treatment.
For others, sometimes they experience an aggravation of symptoms at a specific time of day, such as always getting a headache late in the afternoon. Again, acupuncture points on the corresponding meridian pathways associated with that particular time of day can be used during acupuncture treatment to help the body regain balance and experience an improvement in symptoms.
Western medicine is becoming more aware of the influence that time of day has on various biological processes, something that Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized for thousands of years.
Desert Wisdom: Sayings From The Desert Fathers - Translation & Art by Yushi Nomura
Health, like life in general, is a journey, a process of constant change. Sometimes we have ups, sometimes downs, sometimes moving forwards, sometimes backwards.
Many of us start out the New Year with good intentions for making positive changes in our lives. Unfortunately, all too often this does not last for long. Establishing healthy habits takes practice and effort, and usually involves some failures along the way.
However, one of the important success factors for staying on track is to focus on the present moment. Yesterday is over and done with, tomorrow is just another excuse to procrastinate - only today are we able to take action.
Each new day, we’re given another chance to start over again; every day is an opportunity to make a fresh beginning.
One of the most important theories in Traditional Japanese acupuncture and shiatsu is that of the “Five Phases of Transformation”, sometimes also referred to as the Five Elements. As described in Part 1, these five phases are known as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, andWater and are used to categorize a wide range of dynamic processes of transformation and change within Nature.
Besides being used to classify and categorize various natural phenomena, Five Phase theory also makes use of several relationships which describe how these phases influence and interact with one another.
The first of these relationships is called the Generating Cycle (sometimes also referred to as the Creation Cycle)
By observing Nature
Wood generates Fire by providing the fuel to be burned
Fire generates Earth by producing wood ash which then enriches the soil
Earth generates Metal by supplying the raw ore to be further refined
Metal generates Water by attracting surface condensation of moisture
Water generates Wood by nourishing the tree roots, and the entire cycle repeats
Although intended to be taken more symbolic than literal, the inter-relationships in Nature that are described by the Generating Cycle have much clinical value when applied to the human body.
For example, when dealing with health conditions such as asthma, allergies, or sinus problems, Traditional Chinese Medicine often focuses on the Lung system. However, treatment may also include working on the digestive system (known as the Spleen-Pancreas system in TCM), particularly in cases involving a buildup of mucous and phlegm, which is regarded as a byproduct of weak digestion.
This clinically useful approach can be explained by the Generating Cycle. Strengthening the Spleen-Pancreas to have a beneficial effect on the Lungs is applying the principle of Earth generating Metal.
The concept of the Generating Cycle is not unique to Eastern science; in Western science, this idea can be thought of as a positive-feedback loop. A common example of this would be the high-pitched squeal of feedback from a PA system where a microphone picks up sound from a speaker, amplifies it back into the sound system, out through the speaker again, and back into the microphone in a continuously repeating cycle.
In Western medicine, the positive-feedback loop is responsible for many biological processes. However, these types of systems tend to become unstable and escalate out of control without a feedback inhibition mechanism; in Five Phase theory this is called the Restraining Cycle and will be discussed in Part 3.